Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Right to Wear Dowdy Clothes

I stopped into the hardware store today to buy some concrete mix. Yes, this sounds impressive, really, though, only a small bag, having picked up an on-sale tether-ball set last week while shopping for presents for September birthday parties (it's the season of bowling parties for the turning-7-and-8-years-old set), only to realize later that one doesn't just push a tether-ball pole into the ground, one has to anchor it in a concrete base, set into the grass, making it a much larger project than I thought when I alighted upon the mark-down from 19.99 to 2.99. Perhaps this is why the set ended up in the post-summer sale bin.

Anyway, I stopped at Killian's, a very old-fashioned kind of hardware store where when you're visibly pregnant, the 70-something sales clerk asks if he can haul your bag of concrete mix to your car for you, and it doesn't seem patronizing, it just feels kind (actually, they'll do this even if you aren't pregnant, and I liked that no one raised an eyebrow at the possible incongruity of a pregnant woman asking for concrete). The cashier was very chatty, and sweet. She told me how nice it was to see a pregnant woman wearing something large, like they used too (she was probably in her fifties). I was wearing a rather large, black sleeveless maternity shirt. It was leftover from my first time around, fashionable seven years ago when my first daughter was born, the first Belly Basics maternity clothing foray into black. It came with maternity biker shorts, and was quite comfortable, and the whole outfit got me through a hot Atlanta summer.

Now, however, clothes for pregnant women come much tighter. Don't get me wrong. I'm walking around with my belly sticking out, swathed minimally in camisoles, and pants that come under my belly. I love the new clothes. But what struck me is how old-fashioned I felt today, dowdy even, with my tentlike covering. As we move toward better fashion for pregnant women, I also don't want to lose our fashion right to be dowdy, to wear big comfy clothes, to sport about in oversize shirts and leggings, to dare to look 1970's. I've seen bunches of newspaper articles lately that note the new, Brittany-Spears maternity wear. Next it will Manolos in extra-wide for pregnant mamas, I'm sure, and we'll feel thirty years out of date if we slip flats or canvas keds around those bulging, waterlogged ankles of ours.

After we chatted, and I turned to catch up with the clerk carrying my bag of concrete mix, the cashier half-apologized. "I hope I didn't pry," she said. I assured her it was all okay, that I appreciated the chance to talk about all this. In public. Sometimes older women with their long memories, are exactly who we need to be hearing from.


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